Live Bootleg


Columbia Records, 1978

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Here we go again... no matter how many times I warn against the inherent dangers of live albums, I've found myself in the halls of the Pierce Memorial Archives (it's not just a job, it's a way of life) dusting off one of my many live albums I own.

Why do I do this to myself? Simple: there's always a curiosity factor of a live show. Hearing our favorite band in the studio is one thing; hearing them give it their all on stage is something different all together.

Why Aerosmith and their 1978 Live Bootleg? Why not? It's been a while since we featured the band on "The Daily Vault," and it's been a good five years since I listened to this album.

When will I ever learn? Live Bootleg has some good moments, but you have to trudge through some real shit to get to them.

Recorded from 1973 through 1978, this double-album set often captures a band that was in the grasps of their own demons. Steven Tyler often falls flat on his trademark screams - so often, in fact, that you'll wonder how he ever hit them in the first place. Some of Aerosmith's best tracks are turned into poor caricatures of themselves on stage - and you can't tell me that better live versions didn't exist somewhere in their tape archives.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"Sweet Emotion" is one example of how painful this album can be at times. The harmony vocals that made the studio version off Toys In The Attic are distant memories; this is simply screeching for the sake of screeching. "Back In The Saddle" shows how bad Tyler can sound when he misses his vocal marks. The band sounds particularly ragged on these numbers - though in their defense, they do seem to pull it together on "Lord Of The Thighs," which followed "Sweet Emotion" from their Chicago show.

On the other hand, Aerosmith does turn in some surprising performances. An early version of "Chip Away The Stone" is a highlight - this is one of the first performances of the song. And while it doesn't have the polish of its studio counterpart, it is quite enjoyable. The band even sparks a little interest from me in the track "Mama Kin," a song which has never been a particular favorite of mine.

The two songs from a 1973 gig in Boston are especially interesting - what you hear on these numbers is a band struggling to break into the big-time, but without having to deal with the pressure of a big production. This is just five guys (six, with the addition of a saxophone player on "Mother Popcorn") just out to have some fun with their music. And, unlike some of the songs from around 1977 and 1978, this really shows.

But Live Bootleg doesn't always raise interest in some songs that listeners might not be familiar with. The live version of "Sight For Sore Eyes" doesn't make me want to run back into the Archives and grab my copy of Draw The Line. And no matter how hard Aerosmith will try, no matter how good their intentions are, they will never recapture the magic that is "Dream On" on stage.

The only true "live" album of Aerosmith's career (the two Classics Live albums were released after Aerosmith left for their stint with Geffen Records), Live Bootleg is a stark picture of what Aerosmith was in the late '70s, as well as the way they were in the beginning. It also possibly explains why Aerosmith has never released another live album since.

Editor's note: Since this review first ran, Aerosmith has indeed released another live album, A Little South Of Sanity .

Rating: C

User Rating: C+


© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.